Term 1, Week 1: MA Creative Writing Summary

Week 1 was all about getting started and the key words for this week were very much aligned to the topic; being able to let go, uncertainty and being able to make mistakes.

The underlying themes built on the keywords by exploring how I can let go of the idea, or view, of the writer that I think I should be, and rewrite this into a vision of what kind of writer I can be.  This is made easier by addressing those thoughts about the kind of writing that I think I should do and just get used to pure writing without editing, crafting or analysing.  This brings in the idea of the ‘flow’ which is how we feel when the words just come through us and onto the paper, something that the writing exercises for this week enabled me to experience. This idea of flow was extended through a reading from “Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention”. The final theme was that of rituals, or habits, that I should try out to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes down to my time for writing.

The writing exercises were based around the idea that I should learn to write without prejudice, and by that I mean without any external factors influencing it. This is the idea of ‘flow’ and I’m sure most people know that feeling when they’re in the ‘flow’ and all the words just keep coming.  There was an exercise on freewriting where you just write anything without pausing, crossing out or deleting and also an extension to that called ‘timed’ writing which was very similar although you set your freewriting against a timer.  Another exercise was to focus on a particular object and write whatever you want about it.

Like Doctor Who, I’m now able to travel back in time to a post back in October when I put up my first free-writing exercise here and here.

Each of these exercises, when done correctly, just got me used to putting something on the page (which is often the most difficult thing for some writers). Of course I was able to share my output in a discussion forum which not only gave me an insight into what the rest of the workgroup had done, but it also provided me with some reaction to my own writing.  Ironically, I found it quite difficult to present comments on other people’s writing when it had purposely been written without any real though behind it.

What I found more interesting about this week was the idea of ritual; being able to do something that often that is becomes a habit and something that you then continue to do almost without thought. I’ve always found it difficult to just sit down and write and, being a procrastinator, I’m an expert at finding something else to do.  If my desk is untidy, I’ll tidy it first and if it’s already tidy, I’ll just check some emails / websites etc.  What this week taught me, through some readings from a book called, “The Creative Habit; learn it and use it for life; a practical guide” was that there is never really a perfect time to do anything.  All I can do is work toward something as close to perfect and then just get on with it.  The example given was a dancer who had to get up early to go to the gym every morning.  Interestingly, it wasn’t working in the gym that was the habit, but the actual process of calling the taxi to get to the gym.  The author suggested that the action of ringing the taxi was the point of no return and, by doing that, they knew they’d have to go to the gym anyway.

This instilled in me the desire to set a habit of my own that I could choose to initiate or not; the only rule was that whenever I did initiate it, I’d stick to it. So, I now have a candle and a lamp on my desk.  If I’m in the dark, I put the lamp on and if I want the room to smell like ‘Hansel’s and Gretel’s House’ I’ll light the candle.  But, when I’m serious about writing, I light the candle AND put the lamp on.  When I do this all non-writing tasks get put on hold; no TV, no music, no Youtube and no Internet. This becomes my writing time and anything I do during this period has to be writing-related.

Although this summary is from a period in time from October, my ritual has continued to work upto the present day. I’ve mostly used the ritual to drive my writing but I have, on occasion, found myself sitting down to write without the candle or the lamp which can only be considered a good thing.

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